Getting to know a city, speaking with locals, and discovering the sounds and smells that make it truly unique are some of our favourite things about travelling.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of exploring somewhere outside your comfort zone, and if it’s a sun-drenched island on the other side of the world, even better. But you can’t really get to know a place without immersing yourself in the local food scene.
Across Southeast Asia, there are countless opportunities for the avid (and curious) foodie to indulge in delicacies made by expert artisans. Take your pick from rich, creamy curries or spicy soups served up by lowkey street vendors and beachside restaurants, and live your best, wanderlust-filled life.
To discover how to experience the best food offerings in Southeast Asia, we teamed up with the travel experts at Flight Centre who spend their time globetrotting and crafting vacations for people all over the world.
There’s something for every kind of eater in Bali, whatever your budget may be. The toughest call you’ll have to make is deciding where you want to stuff your face with heavenly food. If you’re staying in the Seminyak area, Flight Centre’s Rachel Shanfeld says you’ve got to dine at Ingka, an effortlessly Instagram-worthy restaurant where you’ll find fantastic food, no matter what time of the day it is.
Shanfeld says the restaurant has a “laid back, surfer beach house vibe and an incredible patio in the back,” serving up great coffees, smoothies, and cocktails, too. There’s also a cat that likes to hang about. “We named her crazy-eye Mel. If you feed her milk, she’ll cozy up with you,” Shanfeld adds.
One trip to El Nido on Palawan, a breathtaking island in the Philippines, could change how you travel forever. Crissandra Ayroso has eight years of travel marketing experience with Flight Centre, and she refers to El Nido as “heaven on earth.” But that’s before you even try the food! Fresh seafood at Kalui Restaurant, a quaint eatery set in a well-preserved wooden Filipino house, should be your first stop.
“[El Nido] is an untouched paradise with some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet. On your way there, or on your way back, you must do the Iwahig River firefly tour. Slightly off the beaten track, the Iwahig River is just outside Puerto Princesa, the island’s central hub,” says Ayroso. If you’re lucky, a boat guide will tell you about the constellations in the sky above you.
Oftentimes, the best dishes in Hanoi are inexpensive and found at a market or just off a bustling street corner. Once you arrive, you’ll want to check local favourites like bánh tôm shrimp cakes and fish noodle soup off your foodie bucket list. Flight Centre’s Troy Vigushin recommends grabbing an “amazing bánh mi” at Hanoi’s Banh Mi 25.
Vigushin, who has been working in air contracting at Flight Centre for 13 years, says it’s “one of the best you will eat,” and when visitors take their first bite of a mouthwatering sub here, they quickly realize why. The restaurant had humble beginnings as a stall led by a local couple, and today, they serve up street food with an unparalleled ambience to travellers from every continent.
There are a hundred reasons to visit the thriving city of Singapore, and the food scene is most definitely one of them. As a melting pot of cultures, Singapore is home to a selection of Chinese, Indian, and Malay cuisine, as well as an abundance of budget-friendly hawker food.
A Noodle Story, located in the Amoy Street Food Centre, is your go-to for ramen served up in true Singapore style. This is a local’s favourite so get yourself there earlier to make sure you’re in line before servings run out. Looking for something a little more upscale after you eat? Make your way over to rooftop bar Loof for a cocktail with a view.
Koh Samui, Thailand
Thailand’s second-largest island is renowned for its lush rainforest, ornate temples, tranquil beaches, and vibrant food scene. You’ll find classics like papaya salad and mango sticky rice on most menus, as well as authentic Thai options like fried catfish, stir-fried pumpkin, and the local, mysterious “no name” dish which many restaurants serve up.
Beyond cuisine, there’s something for everyone to enjoy during a trip to Thailand. Flight Centre’s David Gallie, who has been working with the company for more than 15 years, recommends checking out the local tailors. He says tailors in Koh Samui can design custom suits for you at an incredible price. Pro tip: World Tailor’s on Chaweng Beach Road can help you craft a formal (or more casual) two or three-piece suit.
Feeling hungry yet? Visit Flight Centre now to plan your next trip to Southeast Asia with the help of Canada’s top travel experts. Simply decide your budget and the dates you want to jet off!
After that, all that’s left to do is check the aforementioned local eats off your culinary bucket list and take copious amounts of photos for the ‘gram.